3 Ways to Help Children Live Simply

posted by Andrea | 10/18/2016
Print pageEmail page

children live simply

In case you haven’t noticed yet, I am fairly passionate about organizing, time-management, purging, cleaning, and all things related to simple living. Many days I can’t even believe THIS is what I do for a living!

And now that my children are getting a bit older, I’m excited to finally be able to share my love for simple living with them.

Nora already has so much fun “helping” me organize or declutter a space in our home. She loves going over the “plan for the day” with me, and even Simon gets excited whenever we rearrange furniture or reorganize any of his clothes or toys.

I’m sure we will butt heads occasionally as they get older and have more of an opinion on what they wear, how they decorate their spaces, what activities they fill their time with, and what items they want to purge… but for now, my goal is to help them appreciate the benefits of simply living while they are still young.

If you have children of any age, I hope today’s post will give you a few ideas to help your children learn to live more simply… believe it or not, I’m not even going to tell you to purge, nix screen time, or stop buying toys!

1. Learn to Use Different Language.

When you hear your child say “I want that” or “I need that” in regards to a treat, toy, book, movie, game, electronic, etc. stop and encourage them to say “I like this” or “That is cool” instead.

This might not seem like a huge difference, but it IS!

Instead of wanting to have one more thing, they can simply appreciate and acknowledge that the item looks like fun without feeling like they need to have it.

Also, I always try to say “we are choosing not to spend our money on ______” instead of “we can’t afford _____” — especially since the things they ask for are usually very inexpensive.

Yes, we do have enough money to buy a $5 toy or a $15 lunch; however “we are choosing not to spend our money that way”. Technically, with the amount of money we’re approved to spend on our credit card, we could “afford” to buy A LOT. However, I can’t even begin to count how many times my children have heard me say, “No, I don’t think we’ll spend our money that way today.”

In fact, just last week, Nora asked, “Mom, can we choose to spend our money on ______ today?”  It was so cute I almost wanted to say yes… but instead, I said she should add it to her birthday list 🙂

Finally, I try to talk about things in terms of items we “need, use, want, and/or love” and I think this is helpful when it comes time to purge. My kids know that I personally purge the things I no longer need, use, want or love… and they help me purge their own items too. However, I rarely force them to purge anything if they really love it or just want it for a bit longer.

Maybe they don’t NEED it or even USE it all that much… but if they want to keep it for a bit longer, or if it’s something they really love, then they can keep it (within reason).  I will revisit it with them in another week or so, often pointing out the fact that they didn’t even touch it the entire week… and they are almost always willing to purge it at that point.

Of course, this doesn’t always work, but I like that it often empowers them to make the final decision.

.

2. Stop Rushing.

A few weeks ago, I shared my thoughts about margin time — and why it’s so important for my own sanity each day.

However, I know that this extra time is also extremely important for my children. After all, no one likes being rushed through their day, always feeling late or behind.

My kids eat VERY slowly — I know this, and plan accordingly. We start eating breakfast almost an hour before we need to leave the house in the morning because they eat better and eat more if I give them enough time.

Similarly, if we need to be anywhere later in the day, I make sure to leave plenty of room to change last-minute diapers, get coats and shoes on, load up in the car, and unload again at our destination.

If you have older children, I would highly encourage you to give them enough margin time as well — this might mean quitting one extracurricular activity so they can be home a bit more. It might mean saying ‘no’ to friends coming over or to a weekend getaway so they can actually slow down and relax instead of rushing around everywhere without a break.

I am a strong advocate for teaching children how to be responsible and manage their own time… but as parents, we also need to set boundaries for our children and make sure their schedules aren’t too overloaded and jam-packed.

.

3. Raise Awareness About Less Privileged Children.

Simon and James are still too young for this, but I’m amazed how responsive Nora is when we read books or talk about children who don’t have nearly as much as she does.

Several of the American Girl books go into detail about poverty-stricken lifestyles where the girls only have 1 or 2 toys, sometimes live in orphanages, and battle through the Depression or life on the frontier with almost no clothing, toys, or possessions of their own.

We’ve also talked in length about children in third-world countries who don’t even have clean water or enough food to eat. Right now, it’s difficult for Nora to comprehend a child not having enough food (it’s difficult for me too!) She’ll say things like, “well then why don’t they just ask their neighbor for some food?” or “they should just go to their grandparents house to get supper.” or “if they don’t have food in their house, they need to go to the store.”

I realize this is a big step (especially for younger children) but I’m positive it has made a difference for Nora — and honestly, it makes a difference for me too!

By simply knowing and realizing how many less fortunate people there are in our world, and even in our community, it makes it so much easier to look at all our stuff with different eyes. We appreciate our things more and I’ve found children especially are more willing to purge items they no longer need, use, want, or love if they know other less fortunate children could benefit from them.

.

As the parent of 3 very young children, I ultimately still have the “final say” in what things my children have and what activities they participate in; however, my hope is that by using different language, trying not to rush, and making them aware of how fortunate we are, THEY will learn to make some of their own simple-living decisions.

And you know what… I think it’s working! 

Nora regularly gives me things she no longer wants and tells me to put them in the donation bag.

And just last week, Nora got an American Girl magazine in the mail (don’t ask me how they found us — I swear we’ve never purchased anything from them!) After looking at the magazine, she told me that it was fun to look through but that she didn’t want me to give her any more magazines. When I asked why not, she said it just made her want all the stuff in the magazine even though she knows she’s too young to have it.

She said she’ll add it to her birthday list for her 8 year old birthday 🙂

.

Obviously, these tips alone won’t magically transform your children into simple-living, time-managing, neat-freak, purging machines… but they are steps in the right direction! 

Consistent repetition and regular practice are key for our children… and they aren’t all bad for us adults either!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Filed under: FamilyParentingChildren

 
 

Leave a comment

29 comments

  1. Maria

    10/20/2016

    Andrea, thanks for your words of wisdom and inspiration. I think this post should definitely be in your “top 10” most popular posts

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Maria!!

    [Reply]

  2. Lee Winemiller Cockrum

    10/18/2016

    I love this post!

    One of the things I firmly believe is that we should practice what we want in life, no matter how small our resources may be. Then as your resources grow, you will already have the good habits in place. For me it is generosity, I have always been a giver, it is something that I love to do. But I did not always have the resources I have now. But I gave what I could from what I had, so now that I have more, I already have the mindset of giving.

    I think that your idea of helping your children see the needs of others is this same sort of practice. It will become second nature for them to do what they can wherever they are. We cannot fix the world, but we can make our small corner a better place.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing Lee — this is a good addition to my post!

    [Reply]

  3. Karen

    10/18/2016

    I agree with changing the language used. We never say we don’t have the money. I know that can eventually lead children to unnecessary worry about finances that should never be placed upon them. We live completely debt free and try to teach our 8 year old daughter our ways. I know our discipline will pay off with her in the long run and she will appreciate things more. I also love to see her purge and organize.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I agree — and also, I don’t think kids really even understand finances (at least my kids don’t yet) so by simply saying “we can’t afford that” then all they hear about finances is with a negative tone. I want them to know that money is just a tool they need to learn how to use. They can do good with it, they can do bad with it — hopefully they will do good!

    [Reply]

  4. Emily

    10/18/2016

    Ha! I was going to say the same thing as another commenter or about Nora being an old soul. 🙂 Such a sweetie and what a delight to see that in her at a young age. I love what you said about using different language. When we’re at a store, we will often discuss keeping their “wanter” in check (one way we teach our kids about self control) and use similar language. Great tips as always!! 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I like that — their “wanter” 🙂

    [Reply]

  5. Kim

    10/18/2016

    You rock as a parent!!!!

    [Reply]

  6. Debbie

    10/18/2016

    Awww….I like that Nora doesn’t want to see any more magazines because it makes her want the things. I actually should use a different language for myself when I see things so I don’t end up buying something I consider “cool” and “pretty” as something I “want.”. Hahaha!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha yes! It works for adults too 🙂

    [Reply]

  7. Heidi

    10/18/2016

    Those American Girl catalogs can find you ANYWHERE! So far, I’ve been successful in grabbing them first and tossing them before my girls see them. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — yes, I truly have no idea where they came from. She’s never gotten any mail like that before. Maybe the hospitals (or more likely the Target baby registry) sells birth records to advertizing companies and they send out the magazines when the girls turn 5!

    [Reply]

    Ann Reply:

    Andrea,

    A Wonderful way to cut down on unwanted mail is an APP
    called, Paper Karma. I learned about an on a Youtube video about paper clutter. It is great!! We get a lot less junk mail since I started using that APP!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Good to know — I might need to look into this. I had our junk mail under control for a long time but it’s starting to get bad again.

    [Reply]

  8. Melanie G

    10/18/2016

    Great post! My kiddo is still little, 20 months, but I already think about ways our words and daily decisions can help teach her these things. I’ll definitely be using these tips! Thank you!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Ahhh… you’re ahead of the game! Good for you!

    [Reply]

  9. Francie

    10/18/2016

    I’m definitely going to try some of these tips with my 6 year old. http://www.supersimpleways.com

    [Reply]

  10. Christine from The (mostly) Simple Life

    10/18/2016

    I love that you’re helping them think things through even though they’re so little. Reading books about people who live differently throughout the world made a big impression on me when I was little. I still remember some of them! Plus, there are so many adults that are terrible at managing their time. I’m sure you’re setting yours up for success 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, and yes — so many adults who are terrible at managing their time. Some of it is because they were never taught… so not completely their own faults.

    [Reply]

  11. Melissa

    10/18/2016

    I LOVED this post. Thank you! I either ignore my children’s comments in the store, recommend they add it to their Christmas or birthday list, but I have NEVER thought of helping them rethink or even reword their enthusiasm. Also, I love changing “we can’t afford ____” to “we are choosing not to spend our money on…”. That to me is a huge lesson in life – it’s not what we can afford but rather how we spend our money that defines our finances.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Melissa. The “we are choosing not to spend our money on…” phrase was SO huge for me. I don’t know why, but the whole concept of “we can’t afford____” just bothers me so much, especially when parents say it to their children about $1 items (and then go buy a Starbuck drink for $3!)

    It creates a whole different mind-set — one that says “we have a choice” versus “we’re poor and have a crappy life”

    [Reply]

  12. ShellyL

    10/18/2016

    Great post!! This one hit home. Lately, I am making peace and sanity more of a priority. I am one who usually wants to add more things and more activities to our family for fear we will “miss out” on something. Thank you for your reminders that there is much to be gained by simplifying. Oh, that Nora is a wise girl. I love hearing about her latest sayings and doings.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    You probably have a very different personality than I do — and there’s not one “right way” to handle children’s schedules. If you like being busy and doing lot of stuff… great! Children thrive on structure and routine — so even if you have a full schedule, it’s very possible that your children are thriving with that busyness.
    I’ve just noticed so many times with several of our friends, neighbors, etc. that the parents are actually getting frazzled and stressed out because of all the things they sign their (little) kids up for — and most of the time, the little kids don’t even want to be doing it. It seems like a big waste of time and money that ends up being super stressful for everyone involved.
    I’m all for getting kids involved in things — but maybe when they are a bit older and can have some say in the matter!

    [Reply]

  13. Deni

    10/18/2016

    Your blog is one of the very few that I have kept over the years, and the first one I visit each morning. I always find motivation and leave with encouragement to accomplish more. Today, it is Nora’s last comment about the magazines that really hit home with me. For me, looking at the “picture perfect” blogs and magazines a lot of times makes me feel like my home is not good enough. Your blog and beautiful home encourage me to make the most of my time, home and life. For that I am very grateful, thank you!

    [Reply]

    Bonnie'sMama Reply:

    Deni, I deal with this, too, in regards to blogs. We’re renting a smaller, less-perfect house than what I would like, with no plans to move any time soon. I know it’s the best decision for us for now, but when I see all the beautiful houses with their matching woven baskets in the laundry room, gorgeously-arranged toy rooms, etc, on the many, many blogs out there, I can become very discontented with what I have right now.

    In contrast, Andrea, I smiled to see your various colors of milk crates for storing toys and the cheese boxes in the bathroom drawer. Thank you for giving us doable, inexpensive suggestions for real life for normal people.

    And Andrea, yours is the only blog I have followed for months and months, for reasons like that.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Deni! Picture perfect doesn’t happen much over here — but it’s good to hear that my less-than-pinterest-worthy photos are encouraging and motivational for you!!

    [Reply]

  14. Paulette Smith

    10/18/2016

    More and more, I am convinced that Nora is an “old soul” living in a tiny body! You are doing a wonderful job parenting, Andrea!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I think so too. I don’t really realize how “different” she is until I talk with other kids her same age. One time, she told me they put her in the wrong class because the kids in her class were “like Simon” 🙂

    [Reply]